Local extension requests county funding continue

JOHNSTOWN – Cornell Cooperative Extension of Fulton and Montgomery Counties is hoping Fulton County continues to fund it, although the county has indicated it may not after this year.

Fulton County is appropriating $65,922 this year to the extension. Montgomery County’s appropriation is $72,000. Fulton County officials said in 2010 – as part of a general cost-saving move – the county might not extend funding to the extension past Dec. 31.

Former extension Executive Director Marilyn Smith attended many county meetings lobbying, organizing speakers and requesting more, at least continued funding, at that time.

Current extension Executive Director Brian Gilchrist, who is a shared employee with Washington County, addressed the Fulton County Board of Supervisors’ Economic Development and Environment Committee Tuesday about the extension’s fiscal situation.

“I’m hoping we can have a conversation and not a fight, as has happened in the past,” Gilchrist said.

The panel took no action at the County Office Building.

“Fulton County’s been a partner in cooperative extension, and we hope we can continue that partnership as we must [going] forward in the future,” Gilchrist said.

He said major extension costs covering the two counties’ services are for programs involving 4-H, dairy field and crops, nutrition and horticulture. In addition to the sponsoring counties’ funding, Gilchrist said major sources of income include federal and state money, private grants and enrollment fees.

Gilchrist said Canajoharie-based Cornell Cooperative Extension of Fulton and Montgomery Counties has eight part and full-time shared administrative staff and local staff, as well as 11 regional program staff members.

In his presentation, Gilchrist said county funds are “really crucial to us.” He said the agriculture producers the extension deals with are pleased with the support from counties. He said several regional agricultural teams assist the extension.

Even though the extension’s office is closed Fridays, he said his agency’s program staff operates up to six days per week.

Gilchrist said county funds allow the extension to leverage more state funds. If the agency loses county funds, it will most likely lose those state funds.

He said the 4-H program involves many youth development efforts, and the extension is involved in many after school, recreation and library programs.

Gilchrist said the extension’s federal funding is subject to federal sequestration efforts, and eventual cuts may end up “trickling down” to extension programs. He said the extension has already had a 29 percent cut in its nutrition program.

Perth Supervisor Greg Fagan said he looks at Fulton County’s funding as impacting not only 4-H programs, but extension regional staff. He said the extension does good “on site” work with farmers.

Fagan said the $65,922 Fulton County provides the extension is a “bargain,” and he doesn’t necessarily agree with continuing the 2010 plan to completely gut county funding for the extension.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected].

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